It's official: the Eagles are contenders.
The transformation of Philadelphia's football team from rebuilding for the future to a 3-0 mark heading into the bye week seems to have even caught the biggest fans by surprise — with Sunday's 34-3 victory over in-state rivals the Steelers the proverbial icing on the cake as the squad is sure to soar in NFL power rankings across the country.
Jim Schwartz' disciplined and calculated defense was magnificent, paired with spectacular play-calling by Doug Pederson and execution well beyond Carson Wentz' years.
You'd think the Eagles were Super Bowl contenders if you saw them play the Steelers in Week 3, and perhaps they are. With 13 days until Philly plays another football game, get ready for pundits and commentators alike to start booking flights Houston (and tickets to Canton on layaway to see Wentz' hall of fame induction).
Here are three things we saw in a feast for Philly fans Sunday afternoon:
Bad day for Big Ben
Philly made sure to limit the damage the Steelers' offense could do, out possessing Pittsburgh 34:56-25:04 Sunday. The secondary was also spot on, collapsing around the Steelers receiving corps and causing several big incompletions. The defense also missed very few tackles, keeping their opponent in front of them as much as possible.
In one clutch, key play in the third quarter the Eagles got their second sack of the Steelers drive on a sack from Fletcher Cox, who stripped the ball. It was recovered by Brandon Graham and just minutes later Kenjon Barner crossed the goalline to up Philly's surprising lead to 34-3.
In all the NFC East's leader got to Roethlisberger four times in the game, though many more hurries were created by a simple four-man rush from the Eagles' talented defensive line. Philly finished Week 3 as one of two teams who haven't allowed a passing touchdown.They added an interception late in the fourth, a Rodney McLeod pick deep in the end zone.
Defense does enough
Coming into Sunday, DeAngelo Williams led the NFL in rushing and Roethlisberger led the NFL in touchdowns. Williams ran for 21 yards, and Big Ben was kept out of the end zone all day.
The Eagles got a stop to start the afternoon, giving up a few big plays but settling down in the red zone to force Pittsburgh to attempt a chip shot field goal. Thanks to the long, extended left arm of Bennie Logan the blocked kick kept things scoreless early.
In the subsequent defensive drive the Eagles were able to both get adequate pressure with their front four while also covering the Steelers receivers pretty well (some drops helped) leading to a punt.
Later in the second, the Eagles stepped it up after allowing a 41-yard deep ball to Sammie Coats by locking things down in the red zone once again. After Fletcher Cox sacked Ben Roethlisberger on third down the Steelers settled for a field goal and trailed 10-3.
In the third the Eagles nearly picked Roethlisberger off on three consecutive plays, the last a fourth down stop to regain possession with fans howling with joy.
Wentz Wagon rolls on
Big plays on short passes with long runs after by Brent Celek and Darren Sproles propelled Philly to its own field goal attempt, a made 29-yarder by Caleb Sturgis. The opportunistic Eagles offense continued into the second quarter as the second drive saw a big third down completion to Dorial Green-Beckham following a holding penalty that brought back a screen.
Wentz (23-for-31, 302 yards and 2 td) found Jordan Matthews a few plays later on a quick 12-yard slant into the endzone to put the Eagles up 10-0 and cap off an impressive 12 play, 82-yard drive.
Darren Sproles kicked off the second half with an insane 73-yard touchdown catch — a scamper really — collecting a dump off running pass from Carson Wentz and darting around defenders en route to a score to put the Eagles up 20-3.
Later in the third Philly extended its lead to 27-3 thanks to a seven play, 67-yard drive and 1-yard touchdown run by Wendell Smallwood (his first career score). Smallwood broke through and led all rushers with 79 yards.
The Eagles' offense has not turned the ball over yet this season and the team leads the NFC in points allowed and point differential.